Barbara Kruger Explains Her Cover for New York Magazine, a Politically Charged Polemic Against the End of Roe v. Wade

The image is a callback to one of her most famous works.

Barbara Kruger for New York magazine (2022). © Barbara Kruger.

Feminist artist Barbara Kruger has created a new version of one of her most famous artworks in response to the leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The new image, made for New York magazine, is a callback to Kruger’s Untitled (Your body is a battleground) from 1989. Both images depict a black-and-white image of a woman’s face, half printed in negative, covered over in bold red text. But whereas the earlier image read “Your body is a battleground,” the 2022 edition says, “Who becomes a ‘murderer’ in post-Roe America?”

“The issue of who gets charged with ‘murder’ will be a challenge for the right to finesse,” Kruger told Artnet News in an email. “Is the ‘little lady’ capable of making that decision, or does the doctor or medical facility do the time or worse because the woman can’t possibly be capable of making the decision on her own?”

The anticipated ruling will pave the way for states across the nation to end legal abortion access, rolling back decades of precedents for reproductive rights.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Untitled (Your body is a battleground)</em>, 1989. Collection of the Broad, Los Angeles. © Barbara Kruger.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989. Collection of the Broad, Los Angeles. © Barbara Kruger.

Kruger made her original Your body is a battleground piece for the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. in 1989, in response to anti-abortion legislation passed at the time. (A large-scale silkscreen version is today part of the collection of the Broad museum in Los Angeles.)

More than 30 years later, the artist—who is having a star turn at the current Venice Biennale—hoped that the piece’s message would have become a vestige of bygone times. But the leaked decision has complicated that dream.

“The end of Roe was clearly the result of the right’s rage-filled campaign to undo women’s reproductive health and agency,” Kruger said. “They have been unrelenting, while the middle and left too often kept silent, seeing the issue as the third rail of American politics, regardless of the poll numbers favoring Roe. For decades, abortion was absent or marginalized at campaign debates.”

“Many who insisted on not voting, or ‘voting their conscience,’ rather than for a less-than-ideal Democratic candidate, should not complain about the undoing of Roe, as the current court is the result, in part, of their actions.”

This isn’t the first time Your body is a battleground has made headlines in recent years. In late 2020, the piece became a symbol of protest against restrictive new Polish abortion laws.

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